BackYard Chickens › BYC Forum › Raising BackYard Chickens › Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures › What to do about Sick and Dying Chickens
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

What to do about Sick and Dying Chickens

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm afraid this is going to sound like many other long, hopeless posts, and there may be little useful advice you can offer, but I'm desperate.

My wife and I started a small urban chicken flock in Seattle in April.  We got 3 chicks from a local feed store, and all of them grew into healthy young birds.  The only problem was that 2 of the 3 "sexed pullets" were cockerels.  Familiar story right?  That sent us into chicken swapping mode since we can't have roosters in town.  That's when the problems started.

We replaced our two cockerels with pullets of similar age about 6 weeks ago, both from different sources, but apparently healthy.  We also picked up a fledged bantam chick who was too cute to resist.  The banty, who was segregated from the standard birds, got sick after about two weeks, and quickly died.  The symptoms were classic severe Coccidiosis - lethargy, shivering, bloody droppings, cold feet.  We took her to the vet, but it was too late.  They said she had nearly bled out internally and euthanized her.  We also learned a painful lesson about urban small animal vets and chickens - my wife took in a sick bird and came home with an empty cage and a $160 bill.  We felt both sad and used.  The vet confirmed Coccidia from a fecal sample we brought in from our other birds, and strongly suggested we bring the rest of our flock in.  They would not reccomend any treatment without a full examination of each and every animal (at $35/each).  After consulting with chicken owners we know, we obtained some Sulfamet from a feed store and treated our birds according to the directions.  All was well for about a month.  During this time, we observed occassional loose droppings in the coop, but never blood.  Our 3 pullets seemed healthy.  A week ago, we noticed that our last original bird was not right.  She was sleeping all the time, even when we let them out to forage in the yard, and was visibly weak.  Her droppings were runny, but not excessively so.  We started another treatment with the Sulfamet, but by nightfall of the same day she was dead.   The other two still seemed fine, and we took them off the Sulfamet Friday, after the usual treatment regime for Coccidia.  Yesterday, one of them started acting sick.  She wandered the yard with the other hen, ate grass and bugs and scratch we offered, but was slightly lethargic.  This morning she couldn't stand.  She is now inside where it is warm, but alternates sitting quietly with occassional flapping of wings and scratching.  She occassionally falls over.  Her droppings appear normal.  I have no idea what to do.  Our other bird is active, even rowdy, and started laying about 10 days ago, though we are tossing the eggs because of the Sulfamet.  She seems completely normal, other than fussing a lot about being alone in the coop.

Any ideas at all?  We built a beautiful, weather tight coop for them.  We let them roam the yard when we are home.  No pesticides or fertilizers have ever been used here.  I know sudden death happens to all chicken flocks on occassion, but this run of trouble has us rethinking whether this is even worth it.  We can't spend hundreds of dollars on vet bills monitoring their health.  Are there any meds we should have on hand or other standard measures for sickly birds?  The go down so quickly.  Do chickens ever recover from anything? 

Thanks for any tips.

post #2 of 9

Coccidiosis is quite common in young birds as you probably know. If you have chickens, it's more or less a guarantee that they have some coccidia. Severe stress (such as moving to new digs) can cause the coccidia to to really cause your bird to get sick, whereas normally his or her immune system will be able to fight off the protozoa.

It was probably stress in combination with coccidiosis that got killed your first bird. Really, with good hygiene and a watchful eye, coccidiosis is unlikely to kill many birds because they develop an immunity to strains they have been exposed to over time.

In order to reduce your difficulties with coccidiosis, I would advise feeding medicated chick starter feed (with amprollium). The amprollium is consistent, if I'm not mistaken, with use in organic feed programs in most places. In other words, using a medicated starter feed with amprollium in it will not automatically mean your birds can't be considered organic, if that's important to you. (However, check your local regulations.)

Amprollium is a medication that helps to keep the coccidiosis at bay long enough that young chicks can develop their immunity to it.

I'd also advise getting a copy (if you don't alreadyhave one) of Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens. It can be very helpful.

As to your currently sick birds... are you certain it's cocci? It could be worms, for example. When is the last time they've been wormed? What is their diet like? What color are the droppings?  Are there other symptoms? It's really unlikely (although possible) that your older birds would suddenly get a severe coccidiosis infection in the absence of some other stressor.

Windy
Reply
Windy
Reply
post #3 of 9

Very sorry to hear about your chickens. 

Windy,  Appreciate the tip on the book.  I'm new at raising chickens and I hope it will help.  Previous books that I've bought don't really give enough information on diseases, etc. 

Colleen

Wilbur, Mr. Whitestone and 19 hens.... a good mix - BOs, Wheaten Marans, Whtn Marans/Whtn Americaunas(Olive eggers), BLRWs, EE, Jarhons, etc. 
Exuberant Josie our shep/lab mx and Cricket our super mouser 

Reply

Wilbur, Mr. Whitestone and 19 hens.... a good mix - BOs, Wheaten Marans, Whtn Marans/Whtn Americaunas(Olive eggers), BLRWs, EE, Jarhons, etc. 
Exuberant Josie our shep/lab mx and Cricket our super mouser 

Reply
post #4 of 9

There's another good one: The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Daimerow.  Only be warned: that one gives you so much information, you're likely to think your girls have everything under the sun.  :O

I should probably add to clarify my post above that cocci CAN kill lots of birds. I don't want it to sound as if it shouldn't be a concern. But in a small flock where you really can keep an eye on each bird, with experience in learning the signs, cocci will probably not be the thing you fear the most for your flock.

Don't give up.

Windy
Reply
Windy
Reply
post #5 of 9

Sorry for your losses and welcome to the board fellow seattlite. Most vet's don't know much about chickens/don't do single bird management strategies. When bringing in adult birds it is always a risk for bringing in outside bugs and diseases. I don't know what's wrong with your birds but wouldn't give up.

Personally I'd cull and start over in the spring with sexlink chicks since there can be no mess up with  gender on sexlinks as girls and boys are different colors. I got cocci once and I used amprol to treat it. No withdrawl time so I could eat the birds and the eggs. That may not be easy for you to do though since your birds are pets rather than production. Chickens do fall quick when they stumble.

As for vets... that's redicuious. Have to diagnose each bird!! I guess a country vet would say just take it out back or grab a few birds to sacrifice. In the future just keep that sulmet on hand and as soon as you can confirm cocci in one, treat them all. Not all forms of cocci result in bloody stools either.

What I wonder is how the vet decided the bird had totally bled out from inside too. In my most severe bird with cocci during my one and only outbreak in the past 10 years, *crosses fingers*, she had become listless, barely opened her eyes, with every dropping was just a pile of blood, she was able to made a full recovery in a single week. With lots of beak dipping into medicated water, she perked up within two days of treatment. I sacrificed one bird to make the diagnosis and managed to have the other 15 treated and they all survived... Hope your others make it.

Need egg candling reference pics? Click HERE!
2011 Coop build! Click Here!

 

I'm no expert, there is always something to learn, and my birds are livestock, so... yes, I may be quite blunt. wink.png

Reply

Need egg candling reference pics? Click HERE!
2011 Coop build! Click Here!

 

I'm no expert, there is always something to learn, and my birds are livestock, so... yes, I may be quite blunt. wink.png

Reply
post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Windy Ridge 

There's another good one: The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Daimerow.


I have that book. It is an excellent reference.

Need egg candling reference pics? Click HERE!
2011 Coop build! Click Here!

 

I'm no expert, there is always something to learn, and my birds are livestock, so... yes, I may be quite blunt. wink.png

Reply

Need egg candling reference pics? Click HERE!
2011 Coop build! Click Here!

 

I'm no expert, there is always something to learn, and my birds are livestock, so... yes, I may be quite blunt. wink.png

Reply
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies.  I know there isn't much to go on here.

Windy - I think you are completely correct in every regard about the banty chick we lost.  In that case, the severe coccid infection was diagnosed with a fecal, and death appeared to be due to internal bleeding.  Her feet were cold to the touch and she couldn't open her eyes at the end.  It was a little shocking how quickly it happened, but chicks are delicate, and we didn't know much about that bird's history.  It was the vet's judgement that she couldn't be saved.

The problems we are having with the adult standards seem completely different.  Sadly, since my first post, the second sick hen has died.  I wasn't very hopeful for her, but I'd still like to understand what happened.  I have no prior experience with chickens, but a lot with animal care, including pigeons and exotic birds.  I've never seen anything come on so quickly.  This bird was apparently normal on Sat, a little lethargic but active and responsive yesterday, and near death this morning.  I don't think it was killed by coccidia.  We treated the adults for coccidia after the chick died because the vet identified coccids in a fecal we took him from our other birds.  Whether this was more than typical coccid load, I don't know.  The interaction I had with this vet wasn't very positive.  He seemed to think I was up to something when I didn't want to bring them all in.  My regular vet doesn't do birds.  This was a local bird clinic, but I don't think they have any experience with chickens.  They seemed a little incredulous that anybody in the city would own a chicken, in fact.  I wish I knew a good old fashioned country vet in the area, but that's another post.   We treated with Sulfamet after the second bird got sick because that was the only antibiotic we had access to, and it is supposed to be effective against bacterial pathogens as well as protists.  I have Storey's book, by the way, which is very helpful, but the main thing I get from that is that all kinds of things can suddenly go wrong with chickens.

With regard to the presentation of symptoms in the two young adults we lost (which appear to be identical):  The only initial sign was general lethargy, though they never stopped eating or drinking.  After the first one died last week, we were watching very closely for abnormal poop or other problems.  Their droppings were consistently firm and dark greenish-brown, with white urine salts.   These birds were never wormed, to my knowledge.  We raised one ourselves (hatched in late April), and got the other one when she was about 4 months old.  We raised them on starter crumble, then started phasing them to layer crumble about a month ago.  The current diet is 80% layer and 20% starter, and I wasn't planning on buying more starter.  They also get out to free range several days a week.  My wife made careful observations of the sick bird yesterday, and noted that she was mouth-breathing a lot, which was not normal.  Whether that was stress or a sign of something respiratory, I don't know.  Again, our last remaining bird seems 100% today.  She has always been the extrovert of the coop, and we would notice if that changed.  She is the only one who started laying, though all were that age.  I palpated the bird that died today (an Australorp), but could detect nothing hard lodged in the vent area.  There was no bloody discharge or diarrhea, and her feet were warm right up until death.  Her comb and wattle did look a bit faded to me, but hers were never as bright as our other hens (a Wyandotte and a RIR).

Again, many thanks for your time.  I know such problems happen, but it still stinks when they happen to your birds.

post #8 of 9

I'm sorry to hear you've lost another bird... and sorry to hear about your vet experiences, too. I actually live way out in the country, but it's not any better here. I don't have a chicken vet, either. Out here, people don't take their chickens to vets, I guess. I've encountered a great deal of disbelief on the phone when calling around to try to find one. I wanted to know to whom I should go when I did have an emergency. My answer, I guess, is this board. The closest vet otherwise (that I can locate) who will treat a chicken is about 3 hours away.

Mouth breathing can be a sign of respiratory distress, but in the absence of any noticeable discharge from the nostrils or eyes, I'm more inclined to think it was due to general stress and feeling ill. Since they continued to eat, drink and poo, I would think that it's unlikely to be a crop issue, either. If it was a single bird that had died, sometimes we just have to assume it was an internal medical condition... the equivalent of a heart attack. But this seems to be going through your flock. I don't know that the death of your first chick was connected, but the deaths of these other two do seem to be.

A faded comb and wattle CAN be a sign of a pest infestation: worms, lice, mites. I tend to think that your careful observations would have brought any external parasites to your attention, but it may not hurt to look over her carefully again to make sure. The problem with worming chickens is that there aren't many approved wormers. The one I can think of only treats roundworm. Some people use Ivomec/Eprimex, an off-label use for a pour-on cattle de-wormer, which treats for basically everything. It is off label, however. (It's used in a similar way to the Frontline brand drops you put on your dog or cat to treat for fleas and ticks.)

I'm hoping Diana (Dlunicorn) will see your post, because she always has excellent suggestions and good articles she can point you to... and beyond what I've said here, I'm simply drawing a blank.

I'm so sorry you're having this trouble with your birds.

Windy
Reply
Windy
Reply
post #9 of 9

coccidia damages the intestines and secondary complications such as E.Coli  (subclinical very common) can leave your bird in a weakened state and malabsorption of nutrients from the intestinal damage left behind is why it is advised to give a good poultry supplement and yogurt (live culture) afterwards...when you add worms to that equation then it can be deadly.  Here is an article on how to use ivomec Eprinex (a very "safe" broad spectrum wormer compared to the others)... I suggest you use the spot-on method:
http://shilala.homestead.com/ivomec.html


Edited by dlhunicorn - 10/16/07 at 3:43am
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
BackYard Chickens › BYC Forum › Raising BackYard Chickens › Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures › What to do about Sick and Dying Chickens